Monday, July 30, 2007

The Canon: Historical Uncertainty

I had noticed a quote online from the New Catholic Encyclopedia on the canon that read a bit differently than the online Encyclopedia so I checked things out at the library. Here is what the print version of the Catholic Encyclopedia says about the Old Testament Canon:

“St. Jerome (340-420AD) distinguished between “canonical books” and “ecclesiastical books”. The latter, he judged, were circulated by the Church as good “spiritual reading” but were not recognized as authoritative Scripture. St. Augustine, however, did not recognize this distinction. He accepted all the books in the LXX as of equal value, noting that those designated as apocryphal by Jerome were of either unknown or obscure origin. Augustine’s point of view prevailed and the deuterocanonical books remained in the Vulgate, the Latin version that received official standing at the Council of Trent.

The situation remained unclear in the ensuing centuries, although the the tendency to accept the disputed books was becoming all the time more general. In spite of this trend some, e.g. John Damascene, Gregory the Great, Walafrid, Nicholas of Lyra and Tostado, continued to doubt the canoncity of the deuterocanonical books…The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the OT canon. That this had not been done previously is apparent from the uncertainty that persisted up to the time of Trent.”

New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967
Imprimatur: Patrick A. O’Boyle, D.D.
Archbishop of Washington, August 5, 1966

Again, the Catholic Encyclopedia seems to give a more balanced view of the development of the canon than most Catholic apologists/e-pologists. Up until the time of Trent there was clearly some uncertainty about which OT books were canonical.

If we compare this quotation from the printed Catholic Encyclopedia to the quotation from the online Catholic Encyclopedia, we find a growing list of Catholic theologians who had doubts about the canonicity of the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books.

Online Catholic Encyclopedia:

“In this period [4th-5th century] the position of the deuterocanonical literature is no longer as secure as in the primitive age…Following the precedent of Origen and the Alexandrian tradition, the saintly doctor [Athanasius] recognized no other formal canon of the Old Testament than the Hebrew one; but also, faithful to the same tradition, he practically admitted the deutero books to a Scriptural dignity, as is evident from his general usage. At Jerusalem there was a renascence, perhaps a survival, of Jewish ideas, the tendency there being distinctly unfavourable to the deuteros. St. Cyril of that see, while vindicating for the Church the right to fix the Canon, places them among the apocrypha and forbids all books to be read privately which are not read in the churches…St. Epiphanius shows hesitation about the rank of the deuteros; he esteemed them, but they had not the same place as the Hebrew books in his regard. The historian Eusebius attests the widespread doubts in his time; he classes them as antilegomena, or disputed writings, and, like Athanasius, places them in a class intermediate between the books received by all and the apocrypha….

The influence of Origen's and Athanasius's restricted canon naturally spread to the West. St. Hilary of Poitiers and Rufinus followed their footsteps, excluding the deuteros from canonical rank in theory, but admitting them in practice. The latter styles them "ecclesiastical" books, but in authority unequal to the other Scriptures. St. Jerome cast his weighty suffrage on the side unfavourable to the disputed books…“

Catholic Fathers/Theologians who doubted the deuterocanonical books later canonized by Trent (century): Origen (3rd), Athanasius (4th), Eusebius (4th), Jerome (4th), Epiphanius (4th), Hilary of Poitiers (4th), John Damascene (8th), Gregory the Great (6th), Walafrid (9th), Nicholas of Lyra (14th) and Tostado (15th)…more to come.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Underwhelming Vote at Trent

Here is something on the surface level that just doesn’t make sense.

“The Council of Trent on April 8, 1546, by vote (24 yea, 15 nay, 16 abstain) approved the present Roman Catholic Bible Canon including the Deuterocanonical Books.”
-Wiki, Metzger

If the ratification of the biblical canon at Trent was just a formality, why such an underwhelming vote? If the Council of Trent was simply affirming the same canon that had been held by the Church since the 4th century, wouldn’t you expect a better consensus than 44% yea, 27% nay, and 29% abstaining?

From a strictly human perspective, a 44% majority is far from convincing me that the council members at Trent were sure of the historical witness to the exact nature of the canon. From a divine perspective, a 44% majority is a weak testament to a supposedly “holy-spirit guided”, infallible council.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Canon Series Clarification

Before moving forward with a series of posts on the canon of scripture, I want to quickly convey my purpose with this series.

It is not my intent to try and prove that Protestants have the correct canon even though that is what I believe. All I want to show is that the Catholic assertion that the Roman Catholic Church “gave the world the bible back in 397AD” and that it was “Luther who removed books from the canon” is incorrect. History is not in the favor of the Catholic e-pologist argument that the canon ratified by Trent was the same canon that was always held by the Church.

As I said before, my faith does not hinge on the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the canonization of scripture. But the faulty information and arguments of Catholic e-pologists need to be corrected.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Catholic Myths: Canon and Authority

Below is an excerpt from Catholic Answers which provides a fictitious conversation between a Catholic and a Protestant - a training tool for Catholics. This article displays the true intent behind the whole canon argument for the Catholic apologetists/e-pologists (as I mentioned previously, it is all about bringing you under submission to Rome) and is why so many Catholic e-pologists won't let this one go.

Here the missionary will fumble around awhile, perhaps repeating his earlier statements. Then you say:

"Look, the fact is, the only reason you and I have the New Testament canon is because of the trustworthy teaching authority of the Catholic Church. As Augustine put it, ‘I would not believe in the Gospels were it not for the authority of the Catholic Church’ (Against the Letter of Mani Called "The Foundation" 5:6). Any Christian accepting the authority of the New Testament does so, whether or not he admits it, because he has implicit trust that the Catholic Church made the right decision in determining the canon."

"...Furthermore, the reason you accept the books you do is that they were in the Bible someone gave you when you first became a Christian. You accept them because they were handed on to you. This means you accept the canon of the New Testament that you do because of tradition, because tradition is simply what is handed on to us from those who were in the faith before us. So your knowledge of the exact books that belong in the Bible, such as Philemon and 3 John, rests on tradition rather than on Scripture itself!"

"The question you have to ask yourself is this: ‘Where did we get the Bible?’ Until you can give a satisfactory answer, you aren’t in much of a position to rely on the authority of Scripture or to claim that you can be certain that you know how to accurately interpret it."

"After you answer that question—and there’s really only one answer that can be given—you have some other important questions to ask: ‘If the Bible, which we received from the Catholic Church, is our sole rule of faith, who’s to do the interpreting?’ And ‘Why are there so many conflicting understandings among Evangelicals and Fundamentalists even on central doctrines that pertain to salvation?’" Catholic Answers

I will try to address the breakdown in this argument in a future post.

Early Church Father on Sola Scriptura

'God alone swears securely, because He alone is infallible.'
Augustine, Exp on Psalm 89

'[H]e will find there in much greater abundance things that are to be found nowhere else, but can be learnt only in the wonderful sublimity and wonderful simplicity of the Scriptures'
Augustine, De Doctr. Christ. 2,42,63

'Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth'
Basil, Ep. Ad Eustathius

'For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.' Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 4

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Canon - Getting the Facts Correct

I want to get back to the discussion on the canon of scripture since this is an area were Catholic’s often get their facts wrong. Here are the type of assertions that Catholic e-pologists like to make:

"The Church finished writing the bible in about 100 AD, and the Church finally decided which books belonged in about 397AD." source

"When I look at Church history I find councils of Bishops at Hippo and Ephesus deciding these matters." source

I addressed these two claims in an earlier post with excerpts from the Catholic Encyclopedia which stated that the canon of the Catholic Church was not ratified until Trent. The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that there were doubts about the exact nature of the canon between the time of the Hippo/Carthage Councils (which were ecumenical councils and not binding) and the final decision of the Council of Trent in 1546 (which was the first binding/infallible ruling by the RCC).

In response I received additional comments:

"Just because the church didn't dogmatically declare the canon until Trent doesn't mean it didn't teach that same canon or give that canon to the world." source

"Sure there was discussion [about the OT canon], but do not characterize this as if the issue was not ruled upon. Give me the name and publisher of one bible between Carthage and Trent that did not have the OT deuterocanon in it." source

"Wrong. I'm not sure where you are getting that. Check out New Advent on St. Jerome: He never either categorically acknowledged or rejected the deuterocanonical books as part of the Canon of Scripture, and he repeatedly made use of them." source

"The fact remains that the bible the Catholic Church gave the world in 397 is the exact same one it gives today, with the exception of the 7 books which Luther removed." source

This resistance to the facts presented are not unique to the commenters on this blog. The claim that the Catholic Church gave the world the Bible (and therefore, to Protestants) is one of the cornerstones of Catholic apologetics. In their minds, to have assurance that our Bible actually contains the inspired Words of God (and not spurious material) we must rely on the authority of the Catholic Church. It is a silly argument on many levels, but it remains in the public forum nonetheless.

The fact is, the Catholic Church did not conclusively define HER canon until the Council of Trent in 1546. And the backup argument that the Trent canon is the same canon that had always been taught since the earlier non-binding ecumenical councils is misleading also.

So I would like to spend a few posts addressing these false claims by Roman Catholics on the canon. In the end, even if the Catholic Church had been involved in compiling the canon of scripture it wouldn’t matter one iota as it is God who ultimately decided the canon and he can use whatever means he wishes to accomplish his will. But the claims concerning the canon perpetuated by Catholic e-pologists are often misleading and sometimes completely erroneous and need to be addressed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Catholic Quotes on the Bible

28 Q: Is the reading of the Bible necessary to all Christians?
A: The reading of the Bible is not necessary to all Christians since they are instructed by the Church; however its reading is very useful and recommended to all.

32 Q: What should a Christian do who has been given a Bible by a Protestant or by an agent of the Protestants?
A: A Christian to whom a Bible has been offered by a Protestant or an agent of the Protestants should reject it with disgust, because it is forbidden by the Church. If it was accepted by inadvertence, it must be burnt as soon as possible or handed in to the Parish Priest.

33 Q: Why does the Church forbid Protestant Bibles?
A: The Church forbids Protestant Bibles because, either they have been altered and contain errors, or not having her approbation and footnotes explaining the obscure meanings, they may be harmful to the Faith. It is for that same reason that the Church even forbids translations of the Holy Scriptures already approved by her which have been reprinted without the footnotes approved by her.

-Catechism of St. Pius

Mainstream Catholic Beliefs

Finishing up with the idea of unity, I wanted to share this recent survey. I realize that the attitudes of individual Catholics may not reflect the official teachings of the Catholic Church, but I find the real-life views of Catholics interesting.

I have many Catholic family and friends and the opinions captured in this Barna survey is much more representative of the type of Catholic faith I see in my “real life”. I have to admit when I ran across my first Catholic e-pologists online, I was quite surprised that such Catholics existed.

Here are some excerpts:

“Although the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Catholic has dropped from three out of ten to slightly more than two out of ten in the past two decades, Catholics remain the largest denominational segment in the country (22%). These days, however, they are as mainstream as any people group in the nation. A new survey of more than 4000 adults conducted by The Barna Group examined 97 different facets of the lives of Catholics, comparing them to national norms. The outcome is striking: Catholics are virtually indistinguishable from people aligned with other faith groups - except in the area of faith.”

“All five of the faith-related attitudes tested showed a gap between Catholics and other Americans. Among the elements tested were people’s highest priority in life (Catholics were only half as likely as others to mention their faith, and a majority identified family as their priority) and their commitment to the Christian faith (44% of Catholics claimed to be "absolutely committed" compared to 54% of the entire adult population). Further; Catholics were less likely than average to look forward to discussing their religious views with other people, to attending church services, and to reading the Bible. In fact, Catholics were only half as likely as other Americans to say they look forward "a lot" to reading from the Bible.

Of the dozen faith-oriented behaviors tested, Catholics strayed from the norm in relation to eight of the 12 items. Specifically, the typical Catholic person donated about 17% less money to churches; was 38% less likely than the average American to read the Bible; 67% less likely to attend a Sunday school class; 20% less likely to share their faith in Christ with someone who had different beliefs; 24% less likely to say their religious faith has greatly transformed their life; and were 36% less likely to have an "active faith," which Barna defined as reading the Bible, praying and attending a church service during the prior week. However, Catholics were 16% more likely than the norm to attend a church service and 8% more likely to have prayed to God during the prior week.

The spiritual beliefs of Catholics are also substantially different from the typical views of Americans. Catholics differed from most people on seven of the 11 belief-focused questions raised. For instance, Catholics were significantly less likely to believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches and only half as likely to maintain that they have a responsibility to share their faith with others. They were more likely than the norm to say that Satan is not real; to believe that eternal salvation is earned; and to contend that Jesus Christ sinned while on earth. “

“While Protestants in America have experienced the same type of spiritual compromise over the course of time, there remains a substantial gap between Protestants and Catholics regarding matters of faith, if not lifestyle and thought. The survey showed that American Catholics are more similar to non-Christians living in the U.S. than they are to the nation's Protestant adults. Even the born again segment among Catholics showed few differences in lifestyle and attitudes from national norms.“

-Catholics Have Become Mainstream America

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Catholic Quotes on The Bible

"Individual interpretation of the Bible—the most sublime but also the most difficult Book ever penned—can never bring satisfaction, can never give infallible certainty, can never place a man in possession of that great objective body of truth which Our Blessed Lord taught, and which it is necessary to salvation that all should believe. The experience of many centuries proves it. It can not do so because it was never meant to do so. It produces not unity, but division; not peace, but strife. Only listening to those to whom Jesus Christ said, 'He that heareth you heareth Me,' only sinking his own fads and fancies and submitting with childlike confidence to those whom the Redeemer sent out to teach in His Name and with His authority—only this, I say, will satisfy a man, and give to his intellect repose, and to his soul a 'peace that surpasseth all understanding'. Then no longer will he be tormented with contentious disputings about this passage of the Bible and that, no longer racked and rent and 'tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine', changing with the changing years. He will, on the contrary, experience a joy and comfort and certainty that nothing can shake in being able to say, 'O my God, I believe whatever Thy Holy Catholic Church believes and teaches, because Thou hast revealed it Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived.' God grant that many Bible-readers and Bible-lovers may obtain the grace to make this act of faith, and pass from an unreasoning subservience to a Book to reasonable obedience and submission to its maker and defender—the Catholic and Roman Church."

-Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church

Monday, July 23, 2007

God and His Word

In Scripture, the person of God and the Word of God are everywhere interrelated, so much so that whatever is true about the character of God is true about the nature of God's Word. God is true, impeccable, and reliable; therefore, so is His Word. What a person thinks about God's Word, in reality, reflects what a person thinks about God.

-John MacArthur

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Catholic Dogma

"By Dogma in the strictest sense is understood a truth immediately (formally) revealed by God which has been proposed by the Teaching Authority of the Church to be believed as such.

...Dogma in its strict signification is the object of both Divine Faith (Fides Divina) and Catholic Faith (Fides Catholica); it is the object of the Divine Faith (Fides Divina) by reason of its Divine Revelation; it is the object of Catholic Faith (Fides Catholica) on account of its infallible doctrinal definition by the Church. If a baptised person deliberately denies or doubts a dogma properly so-called, he is guilty of the sin of heresy (CIC 1325, Par.2) and automatically becomes subject to the punishment of excommunication (CIC 2314, Par. I)."

-Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pgs 4-5

A list of dogmas that must be believed (those listed as "De fide.") by all Catholics can be found here. I wanted to list them out in this post, but there are too many to type.

Ott on Unity

The Unity of the Church

By unity is to be understood not merely numerical unity or unicity, but above all the inner unity or unicity in the sense of being undivided.

The Church founded by Christ is unique and one (De fide.)

...One may, with the Vatican Council, distingush a two-fold unity of the Church:

1. Unity of Faith

This consists in the fact that all members of the Church inwardly believe the truths of the faith proposed by the teaching office of the Church, at least implicitly, and outwardly confess them...Unity of Faith leaves room for various opinions in those controversial questions which the Church has not finally decided.

Incompatible with the Catholic conception of the unity of Faith is the Protestant theory of the Fundamental Articles, which demand agreement in the basic truths of faith only, so that within the framework of the one Christian Church varying confessions of faith can exist side-by-side.

2. Unity of Communion

This consists, on the one hand, in the subjection of the members of the Church to the authority of the bishops and the Pope (unity of government or hierarchical unity); on the other hand, in the binding of the members among themselves to a social unity by participation in the same cult and in the same means of grace (unity of cult or liturgical unity).

The unity both of faith and of communion is guaranteed by the Primacy of the Pope, the Supreme Teacher and Pastor of the Church. One is cut off from the unity of the Faith by heresy and from the unity of communion by schism.

...St. Thomas declares that the unity of the Church is founded on three elements: The common faith of all members of the Church, the common hope of eternal life, and the common love of God and of one another in mutual service. Fidelity to the unity of the Church is a condition for the attaining of eternal salvation.

-Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pgs 302-303

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Another Survey on Catholic Unity

(larger view of table above)

A 1999 survey by National Catholic Reporter on American Catholic Beliefs (note, some of the beliefs are required dogma).

"The purpose of inquiring into Catholic identity is to describe more precisely this aspect of the actual lived faith of Catholics, which may or may not fit exactly with official teachings. All religious groups have elements of popular religion that develop among the faithful. The Second Vatican Council reaffirmed that the sensus fidelium -- the sense of the faithful -- is important.

Anyone investigating Catholic identity soon finds that being a Catholic has many possible facets. The Catholic tradition is old, rich, variegated, and for some, bewildering. There are saints, social reformers, relics, mystics, spiritual virtuosi, devotions, obligations, art forms, institutional rules and hundreds of moral teachings. What are the most central and the most important facets? What most defines what being a Catholic really means?"

"The table also shows attitudes broken down in three levels of education. Catholics with different levels of education differ on only two of the six ratings. On the fourth, concerning Mary, the Mother of God, the most educated Catholics have a lower rating than the others; the difference between the most and least educated groups is 16 percentage points. And on the sixth, concerning the teaching authority claimed by the Vatican, the most educated Catholics have a much lower rating than the others. The three groups vary by 21 percentage points.

Here is an indication of trends in the future. Since educational levels among American Catholics are steadily increasing, we may expect future Catholics to resemble the more educated Catholics today. Probably future Catholics will attach less importance to devotion to Mary and to church authority."

(23% of Catholics polled believe a person could be a good Catholic and not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ. 38% of Catholics polled believe a person could be a good Catholic and not believe in the real presence of Christ in the eucharist)

So, if the existence of many different Protestant denominations shows that Sola Scriptura is unworkable, then what do these surveys about the variety of lay Catholic beliefs on church doctrines say about the RCCs infallibility?

"The belief in the Bible as the sole source of faith is unhistorical, illogical, fatal to the virtue of faith, and destructive of unity." Catholic Encyclopedia

Surveys on Catholic Unity

In the comment section of Sampling Catholic Unity, a Catholic commenter made the following comment:

“We are unified in that there is a core set of beliefs (dogmas) that all catholics believe. There will always be people who disagree on this aspect or that one. But, our beliefs on these dogmas are resolute. Protestants, on the other hand, cannot agree on any aspect or teaching. They all claim Sola Scriptura, but that is all.”

In response I provided the following excerpts from surveys published on Catholic websites (see the comment section for full quotes):

Catholic beliefs and practices: the challenge ahead for Australia

-Only 6.8 per cent of 20-24-year-olds attended regularly (down from 7.2 per cent in 1996) and 5.6 per cent of 25-29-year-olds (down from 7.0 per cent) attended [Mass].

-Acceptance of the virgin birth among Mass attenders ranged from 73 per cent for 18-24-year-olds to 81 per cent for those aged 56 or over.

-In the case of belief in the Eucharist truly being the Body and Blood of Christ. Only 46 per cent of 15-17-year-old Mass attenders accepted this doctrine, whereas 81 per cent of those aged over 56 did so. In between these groups the level of belief rose with age.

-Belief in God as the Holy Trinity again reflected age differences, with 51 per cent of 15-17-year olds accepting it, increasing to 78 per cent for over 56-year-olds.

Young adults’ lack of participation problem for U.S. Catholic Church, study says

-One of the main results of the new survey was to confirm and reinforce earlier findings that younger adult Catholics tend to have a looser, more tenuous relationship with the church than their older counterparts.

-The younger Catholics are less likely to accept church teachings on issues of sex and marriage or to consider the church's teaching role important in such matters, for example, and they are less likely to attend Mass regularly or to consider Mass attendance important for being a good Catholic

-Only one-fourth go to Mass on a weekly basis.

-Less than half believe that the teaching authority claimed by the Vatican is very important. A majority disagree with church teachings related to sexual and reproductive issues.

-And if a sizable number of young adults report that they do not understand their faith well enough to explain it to their own children, they have a problem, and so does the church.

The Cara Catholic Poll

-Seventy percent of Catholics believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist while 30 percent believe bread and wine are only symbols of Jesus.

Clearly all Catholics do not agree on the essential dogmas (and very clearly they don’t agree on general teachings like prohibition of birth control). This is not unity.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Getting Unity Correct

Phil Johnson wrote a great article for Pulpit Magazine about the Wrong Kind of Unity as it applies to Catholicism. I like that he not only dealt with the disunity in Roman Catholicism, but whether organizational unity is a quality to be desired in the first place.

“When Jesus prayed that we all might be one, He was describing a spiritual unity. In John 17:11, He prayed “that they may be one, even as We are.” Verse 21 continues: “that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us” (emphasis added).

That describes a very specific kind of spiritual unity that proceeds from our union with Christ. Christ Himself likens it to the unity between Father and Son. It is certainly not something as mundane and superficial as the homogenization of all churches under one earthly hierarchy of bishops in Rome or Constantinople.”

Catholics tend to use the verse above to bolster their argument that Jesus wanted organizational unity and that the “splintering” of Protestant groups goes against the desires of Christ for his church. Not only is this argument flawed in its premise, but it is an argument that works against the Catholic Church itself.

“Organizational unity cannot guarantee true spiritual unity, and the proof is seen in the Church of Rome herself. Despite all the Catholic finger-wagging about the lack of unity reflected in Protestant denominationalism, there may well be more disharmony within the Roman Catholic Church than there is in the typical Protestant denomination.”

From here, Phil goes on to give examples of disharmony among some more well-known Catholic apologists like Keating against Matatics and Sugenis against Keating, citing online documents of these battles and other battles amongst the members of the Roman Catholic Church. Phil makes the point that the Roman Catholic Church is certainly a far cry from the unity seen within the Trinity that Jesus spoke about.

Finally, Phil describes the type of unity that Christians should strive for:

“But the unity Scripture calls us to is a unity in truth. Paul wrote, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). He did not counsel the Corinthians to grasp for a superficial unity by setting truth aside and embracing an organizational unity without regard to sound doctrine. Nor did Paul order them to abandon their differences and simply place a blind and implicit trust in his apostolic magisterium. He was urging them to work through their differences and strive to achieve unity in both heart and mind. Such unity is possible only when people are themselves in union with Christ. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).”

We should strive for truth and sound doctrines, not organizational unity. If we are truly in Christ, then we are truly unified.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sampling Catholic Unity

In most of my past posts on Catholicism I have tried to stick with you using quotes from official Church documents. While I believe it is best to confront the errors of the Church of Rome with her own official teachings, I believe there is still value in providing statements from lower level leaders and laypeople.


Because the Roman Catholic Church (and especially her e-pologists) claims “unity” as one of its hallmarks. That is why you will hear the Catholic e-pologists bring up nonsense like “there are 30,000 Protestant denominations” or “sola scriptura leads to chaos, even Luther thought so” and the like. The Catholic Encyclopedia makes this claim against Protestants:

"That the mark of unity which is distinctive of and essential to the true Church of Christ is to be found in none other than the Roman Catholic Church, follows naturally from what has been said... Between no two of the hundreds of nonCatholic sects is there a common bond of union; each one having a different head, a different belief, a different cult. Nay more, even between the members of any one sect there is no such thing as real unity, for their first and foremost principle is that each one is free to believe and do as he wishes. They are constantly breaking up into new sects and subdivisions of sects, showing that they have within themselves the seeds of disunion and disintegration. " Source

The implication is then, that Catholics are united in their own beliefs and actions. If this is true, then we should be able to assess the statements of individual Catholics as representative of their church as a whole. Especially those in some position of leadership (priests, cardinals) and those who present themselves as representatives of their church (catholic apologists/e-pologists, book authors)

I know this idea won’t sit well with Catholic e-pologists because they KNOW that the members of their one true church have opinions that run the gamut from universalism to hardcore traditionalist (all non-Catholics will go to hell). But you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either drop the fa├žade of unity or be prepared to embrace a sampling of your “unified” representatives.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Short Catechism

This early edition of the catechism is translated into to English from an Italian work approved by the Holy Father. Intended for children to ready them for Holy Communion, this work lacks scripture quotations because "the Church is the Divine Teacher and the Sacred Text was never intended to teach doctrine, but only to prove it." (Preface, p. i-ii)

What the Sacred Text actually says:

"...and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." 2 Tim 3:15-17

Monday, July 16, 2007

Luther on Sola Scriptura

In the comment section of the post Catholic Fallacies: Private Interpretation, John (jswranch) made the following comment:

We Catholics are not the only ones claiming this chaos in Sola Scriptura. Just look at the words of Luther:

“There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God. There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams.”

I wasn’t buying John’s use of this quote so I searched around for the original quote in context but was unsuccessful. I asked James Swan of Beggars All Reformation, who is the online Luther expert, if he was familiar with the quote.

With his usual excellence in getting quotes and context correct, James has posted an in-depth look at this quote. I am including just some excerpts here, you really must read James’ post in it’s entirety:

“When checking these obscure Luther quotes used by Roman Catholics, the first thing to remember, most often, they didn’t get them by reading Luther in context. Often, they’ve pulled these quotes from secondary sources.”

James was able to track down the actual quote in context in a letter by Luther:

“We believed, during the reign of the pope, that the spirits which make a noise and disturbance in the night, were those of the souls of men, who after death, return and wander about in expiation of their sins. This error, thank God, has been discovered by the Gospel, and it is known at present, that they are not the souls of men, but nothing else than those malicious devils who used to deceive men by false answers. It is they that have brought so much idolatry into the world.

The devil seeing that this sort of disturbance could not last, has devised a new one; and begins to rage in his members, I mean in the ungodly, through whom he makes his way in all sorts of chimerical follies and extravagant doctrines. This won't have baptism, that denies the efficacy of the Lord's supper; a third, puts a world between this and the last judgment ; others teach that Jesus Christ is not God ; some say this, others that ; and there are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads.” - Letter of doctor Martin to the Christians of Antwerp.

Finally, James notes:

“First, it should be obvious the quote is being used out of context. Luther isn’t talking about the devastating effect of sola scriptura. He’s talking about the devastating effect of the devil, who, Luther says, was at peace in his papal fortress, but now with the gospel being loudly proclaimed, must find a different way to keep men enslaved to sin and darkness.”

The rest of James' article goes on to make some excellent points about the need for an infallible interpreter of scripture (as Catholics claim). As this topic was also brought up in the comment section of the post on private revelation, I hope to address this topic more thoroughly in a future post. Again, make sure you read James' full post as he has alot of interesting information there.

John (jswranch), I know how much you love to quote Luther but unfortunately you will have to cross this particular quote out of your play book. And while you are updating your playbook, you may also want to check out James’ “Luther Myths” posts listed in my sidebar.

The 30,000 Protestant Denomination Myth

I actually heard the Catholic correspondent on Fox News mention that there are 28,000 Protestant denominations (the exact number bounces around 30,000) so I went to find the article that debunked that myth. I sent an email to the Fox correspondent - nothing worse that getting your facts wrong on national TV. He emailed back and said he would look in to it. Somehow I doubt I will get a public retraction.

Svendsen checked the original source for this erroneous number in his article 30,000 Protestant Denominations?

"As we have shown, the larger figures mentioned earlier (8,196 Protestant denominations and perhaps as many as 8,000 Roman Catholic denominations) are based on jurisdiction rather than differing beliefs and practice. Obviously, neither of those figures represents a true denominational distinction. Hence, Barrett’s broader category (which we have labeled true denominations) of twenty-one Protestant denominations and sixteen Roman Catholic denominations represents a much more realistic calculation."

"If the Roman Catholic apologist wants instead to cite 8,196 idiosyncrasies within Protestantism, then he must be willing to compare that figure to at least 2,942 (perhaps upwards of 8,000 these days) idiosyncrasies within Roman Catholicism. In any case, he cannot compare the one ecclesial tradition of Roman Catholicism to 25,000, 8,196, or even twenty-one Protestant denominations; for Barrett places Roman Catholicism (as a single ecclesial tradition) on the same level as Protestantism (as a single ecclesial tradition)."

"In short, Roman Catholic apologists have hurriedly, carelessly—and, as a result, irresponsibly—glanced at Barrett’s work, found a large number (22,189), and arrived at all sorts of absurdities that Barrett never concluded. One can only hope that, upon reading this critique, Roman Catholic apologists will finally put this argument to bed. The more likely scenario, however, is that the death of this argument will come about only when Evangelicals consistently point out this error—and correct it—each time it is raised by a Roman Catholic apologist. Sooner or later they will grow weary of the embarrassment that accompanies citing erroneous figures in a public forum."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Blog History and Mission

But These Are Written was launched on July 15, 2007. This blog reflects my interest in apologetics with a current focus on exposing the errors of Roman Catholicism and promoting Sola Scriptura.

All of the material prior to July 2007 was transferred over from my previous blog Of Christian Women. I arbitrarily made up most of the posting dates.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to move over all of the comments associated with the previous blog although I did manually import the comments of the most recent posts. I hope to eventually establish links back to my old blog (for each post) so that past commentary can be accessed. Until then, older posts may refer to comments although there are none showing.

My mission here is two-fold.

First, I want to educate other Protestants on Roman Catholicism as I believe it is important to understand that the gospel of Rome is not the Gospel of Christ. This involves not only looking at what the Roman Catholic Church teaches, but also refuting the erroneous claims by Catholic e-pologists.

Second, this blog is a convenient place to document my research for future reference. I have Catholic family and friends and I want to gather as much information as I can to help in witnessing to them.

What this blog is not about is changing the minds of online Catholics. As such, I will not be forced to answer every refutation of what I post. Eventually I hope to make a list of common tactics by Catholic e-pologists so I don’t have to keep replying to the same rhetoric.

Note, I have created some commenting rules for interacting here. Please read through those rules before submitting a comment.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Patrists on Sex and Mary

I wanted to point my readers over to a very interesting post on Gojira’s blog.

Could the Early Church Father's views on sex have influenced their Marian doctrine?

(link removed)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Catholic Fallacies: Private Interpretation

One of the statements that Catholic e-pologists like to throw around against Protestantism is the relativism and disunity of private interpretation. While Protestants look to the scriptures for authority on faith-based issues, Catholics look to the authority of their visible church organization.

“"The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.” CCC 85

Based on these claims by Catholics you would assume that a church-approved commentary of the Bible would exist to lead Catholic laypeople, especially Catholic apologists, to the correct interpretation of each biblical passage. Yet nothing even close to such a thing exists. In fact, very few biblical passages have been officially defined by the RCC.

“The Church has no official commentary on Scripture. The pope could write one if he wanted, but he hasn’t. And with good reason: Scripture study is an ongoing, developing field. To create an official commentary on Scripture would impede the development of this field.” Catholic Answers

I guess 2000 years (if you believe the RCC’s claim to history) is not quite long enough to figure out the truth. While some Protestants have written commentaries on the entire Bible in their own lifetime, the “infallible” RCC has been unable to even attempt the same in 2000 years.

“As far as I have been able to document, only seven passages of Scripture have had their senses partially (not fully) defined by the extraordinary magisterium. These definitions were made by the Council of Trent…” Catholic Answers

Off the top of my head, I do not no how many verses there are in the bible, but seven is certainly a very, very small percentage. Catholics keep telling me that the RCC has the “fullness of truth” - I think it would be more honest to say “a very slow development of truth”.

Where does that leave the Catholic apologist (e-pologist)?

“The liberty of the Scripture interpreter remains extensive. Taking due consideration of the factors that influence proper exegesis, the Catholic Bible interpreter has the liberty to adopt any interpretation of a passage that is not excluded with certainty by other passages of Scripture, by the judgment of the magisterium, by the Church Fathers, or by the analogy of faith. That is a great deal of liberty, as only a few interpretations will be excluded with certainty by any of the four factors circumscribing the interpreter’s liberty” Catholic Answers

Seems to me that much liberty could lead to chaos, and it does. Anyone who has interacted with more than one Catholic e-pologist knows that before long they begin to contradict each other.

But more to the point, how can the interpretation of a biblical passage by any Catholic apologist even be entertained? If their own infallible authority has only been able to define 7 passages of scripture over 2000 years, the apologist/e-pologist cannot have the integrity or the authority to even attempt to interpret scripture on their own. If they do, they fall into their own “private interpretation” trap so carefully, but foolishly, set for the Protestants.